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Jun 10

Guatemala May Medical & Dental – 2011

2011 | by Clint | Category: Global,Rabinal Achi,Trips

From Brent Burkett M.D.

I have vivid and fond memories of last year’s May medical mission to Achi country.  There was the tremendous beauty of the intricately woven clothing of the Achi women and girls,  the joyous deafening noise from the children clearing their school rooms of chairs and desks for our makeshift clinics and pharmacy, and God’s handiwork of sky and clouds and rolling mountains.  But beyond all the physical attributes of the journey, the most amazing thing was that this was not just about medical and dental care.  This trip was about God’s church reaching out to fellow Christians and non Christians in an act of love and compassion.  This was not about doctors, dentists, and nurses.  It was about the body of Christ serving together with each person making a key contribution to the body whether it was language translation, holding a hand, counting pills, or laughing together during food and fun.

I believe these “mission” trips should just be called God’s Church Working.  The little we do would not be possible without the selfless foundation and planning of some amazing people in country including the Barreras, Dr. Jacobo, Pastor David Ixcopal and his son Eder along with many others.

On Monday, May 30th we joined the other wonderful people that we would be working with in Tactic.  What a wonderful time of fellowship in and under our Lord’s name with Achi, Latino, and Gringo brethren.

On Tuesday, May 31st,  we were off to our first clinic in Chacalte about a 20 minute ride up a winding and steep road.  On arrival at Chacalte I was reminded of the sheer beauty of God’s creation around this simple and quaint village.  Farms had crops on steep slopes, and the surrounding wisps of clouds added a magical quality to the vistas.  Next I was reminded of the beautiful and intricate weavings that the Achi women and girls wear.  The clothing is quite heavy despite the summer heat.  Finally, my eyes teared up as I heard and saw the excited children with our arrival.  The boys and girls were deafening with their enthusiasm as they were removing their school tables and chairs from the school room to make space for our clinic and “pharmacy”.

We were able to spend 1 ½ days in Clinic at Chacalte. It was my pleasure to have Emilio translate for me.  He was a middle aged Achi gentleman that had been taking English classes with Carol Barrera.  Memo stood close by to help with Spanish to English translation when Emilio had difficulties.  It was a very moving and meaningful moment when the community leaders presented an official written proclamation of appreciation to our Team for the medical and dental care that we provided to the community.  The last medical or dental clinics that had been there had been at least two years before.  I couldn’t help comparing their appreciation for medical/dental care every two years when Americans get upset if they can’t get acute medical or dental care the next day.

On Wednesday, June 1st, afternoon we departed TacTic and traveled to San Miguel Chicaj.

Our next Clinic was on Thursday, June 2nd, at El Progresso.  This was a community in the valley about 15 minutes from San Miguel.  We did not have to conquer any significant road barriers to travel there.  Again we were able to set up in a school facility.  This was the only facility to have adult size chairs to sit in while in Clinic—whew!! easier on the back and knees.  Here my interpreter was Aura, a wonderful Achi lady who was fluent in Achi, Spanish, and English.  We were busy in the morning and thought we had just about seen everyone by lunchtime, but after lunch we were descended on by many more patients and may have not seen everyone seeking care by the end of the day.  Very tired at days end.

On Friday, June 3rd, we had Clinic in Pachalum—the only Clinic site this year that I had been to in September 2010.  Pachalum is about 20-25 minutes from San Miguel on a very steep, gravel, rutted, switch-back road.  Once again God’s handiwork in His Creation was magnificent all around us as we ascended the road and in views from the school at Pachalum.

It was here that I was reunited with Oscar, a young Achi man from Rabinal, who had interpreted for me on three Clinic days last September.  He had been in Carol Barrera’s English class and she had asked our team in September to try to help and encourage him in his English.  The next thing I knew he was translating for me and I gained a lot of respect and admiration for this young man both as an individual and as a dedicated hard worker to improve himself.

Strangely, there were no patients to be seen when we were set up.  We were told that Friday was market day in San Miguel and Salama and that many of the villagers had taken their products to the market and also to shop and that they would be back later in the morning and the afternoon.  Indeed that appeared to be the case as patients began to sign in and line up to be seen.

God’s confirmation to me that I was to be on this Mission Trip and potentially others came when one of the Achi lady patients was talking to the interpreter.  Her physical features and her strong vocal overtures to the interpreter seemed familiar to me as if I had seen this lady before.  I had the interpreter ask if she had seen us last year in September and she said yes she had seen us.  At this moment God’s Holy Spirit  tremendously moved me that this lady would come back and seek help from someone who not only did not look like her but could not even speak her language.  What a privilege God has provided and what a blessing he has given me to share this time with this dear creation of His.  What a wonder it is that despite our vast cultural differences we are still brothers and sisters in Him.

Overall the medical team saw about 178 patients and provided care for a variety of conditions such as headaches, backaches, gastritis, intestinal parasites, sinusitis, bronchitis, urinary infections, and skin disorders.  In addition to providing antibiotics, pain medication, and multivitamins we were able to pray with each patient and share our faith and love in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Ultimately we left the patients with more than pills and promises.  We left them with a dedication that we love them and will continue to return to provide medical and dental help but even more there is a Savior who can be with them continually to provide hope and strength.

As we returned to San Miguel descending the mountain after our final Clinic of this trip, the rows of mountain ranges appeared as ocean swells approaching a beach and a rainstorm was approaching San Miguel.

It was as if God was reminding us of all the dark worldly sin that wants to close in on us yet through His Son and His cleansing blood we are washed clean.  It is in this spirit of being a united community of God selflessly seeking His will that both the local and visiting Mission Team work so well together to bring Glory to God.

More pictures from the trip:

Taylor taking Eder's vitals


Dr. Jacobo Pineda Ortiz and Dr. Brent Burkett



Astraea taking vitals


Janette (Jacobo's wife) explaining prescription dosage

Janette (Jacobo's wife) ministering to the Achi


Pastor David y Rodrigo ministering in word and deed in El Progresso


Daniel, Hector, y Amilcar giving an Achi man a gospel tract


Carol Barrera sharing the Word of God in Achi with the Achi


Ashley and Sophia


Achi (Adan) and Gringo (Mike) Dentists serving side by side


Bart and Christina along with Pastor David attending a water committee meeting in El Progresso for several area villages


Sophia taking vitals


Mike and Danny with Pastor Cirilo and his family


Bart translating and reading the village of Chacalte's official historical record of the medical clinics that day


Michelle signing the commmunity historical record in Chacalte


Clint accepting a weaving from Pastor Cirilo and his wife after the clinics in Chacalte


Moises y Miguel en Chacalte


mmm.... lunch time. "Don't touch my tortillas y guacamole"


Goofing around with the Achi children




Partners in life, partners in mission (Paul and Michelle)


Rodrigo Barrera enjoying the partnership with La Iglesia de la Manantiales en el Desierto (The Church of the Springs in the Desert)



Nov 1

Guatemala Water/Sanitation and Medical Survey – 2007

2007 | by Clint | Category: Global,Rabinal Achi,Trips

This was our first official investigation trip for potential work of Community Health Evangelism (CHE) among the Achi. CHE is designed to enter third world communities and help them identify and solve problems in hygiene, water sanitation, microfinance, and general health. The idea is to help them with physical problems as well as the one true spiritual problem—reconciliation with God. So part of the program is helping with health, water, and microfinance projects, while proclaiming the gospel and training others to do so. On this trip we were able to treat lots of patience along side Dr. Jacobo as well as test a few water sources to confirm that they were not suitable for people to drink.

From Karen G.

For this trip, we teamed up with Kathi, who is a Physician’s Assistant and her friend, Dr. Jaime Jacobo, a physician from Guatemala City.  In other communities in Guatemala, Dr. Jacobo had been using a program called CHE; he had begun the program in an Achi village, Los Encuentros, about a year earlier.  The process was to offer a proposal to community leaders to commit to a “training the trainers” session once a week.  The training was holistic, consisting of community health and hygiene, interspersed with spiritual health via the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The training had already born fruit in the form of a community project to renovate the school.  Dr. Jacobo arranged a meeting with the leadership group, who shared their story and their aspirations, and then showed us around the community.

Our experiences in those ten days were many and varied, making a profound impact on all of us.  We had arranged to hold two medical clinics.  The first was in a tiny earthen building in Chichilom staffed by Alwyn and Jacobo seeing patients, and Kathi dispensing medicines, with some of us playing Bible stories on a solar CD player, entertaining children and visiting some homes.  We began a friendship with Cirilo, a local farmer who was traveling to take classes at the Baptist Seminary a few hours away, and was holding Bible studies in his home.

David, Clint and Indy hiked up the mountain to investigate the water situation in the village.  Although clean water was available via a mountain spring, they found rotting carrots and empty containers of insecticide dumped into its headwaters.  Only two latrines were in use in the village.

Our hearts were broken for the children in this village who suffered from constant stomach ailments, lice, scabies, and often malnutrition…even though the community grew plenty of vegetables, they did not seem to make their way into the stomachs of these children.  Mothers waited with babies completely covered, fearful of “the evil eye,” apparently a curse caused by random people looking at the baby.  It was apparent that the established churches had not combated synchronism with an animistic worldview, in which blessings and curses are controlled by the unseen world of the spirits.  The established religious leaders in the village had heavily persecuted Cirilo, who was attempting to introduce Biblical truth and model the love of Christ, as a redemptive, all-sufficient Savior.

Back in San Miguel, Alwyn scheduled a second clinic in one of the Compassion sites.  When we arrived, 30 children were in line to be examined with a variety of health issues, similar but less severe than in Chichilom.  With Irma translating, he wrote prescriptions and gave them to the Compassion director, lamenting that he hadn’t required parents to come with the children.

We spent a good deal of time meeting and forming relationships with the medical people in the area.  On our last day, we made a routine visit to a sick woman to pray over her and her family.  When we arrived, we found the woman in a coma, and her husband and five daughters weeping outside the room.  Alwyn examined her and found that through a misdiagnosis over the telephone, and for lack of an antibiotic, the woman was septic and near death.  Although we scrambled to carry her to the road and transported her to the nearest hospital, she passed away that night.  We were in anguish over the loss of a wife and mother from causes totally preventable in the U.S.  God arranged for us to witness the scene, I believe, to add urgency and passion to our inquiries – what issues are at the root of the health problems of the Achi?  What are we called to do?

Our perceptions of root problems, in summary, were

  • Primary causes: waterborne disease, malnutrition, and poor hygiene
  • Mistrust of hospitals and health care, due in part to experiences of prejudice and ill treatment by non-Achi health professionals.  As far as we could determine, there had never been an Achi doctor, although the number of nurses was on the rise.
  • Extreme poverty/widespread unemployment.  This very often leads to the husband and father traveling to Guatemala City, the coast, or another country to earn money to feed his family — creating a variety of social problems.